Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
ANNE MILLER
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!

METAPHOR MINUTE ARCHIVE

Metaphor Minute: Metaphor Shapes Obama's State Of The Union

 

CONTACT:
amiller@annemiller.com

 

January 25, 2012

Metaphor Shapes Obama's State of the Union

What do you do to sell your idea of unity to an audience that is diverse, divided, and, in many cases, downright hostile to you and your views?

Engage them immediately through metaphor.

That is exactly what President Obama did last night in his State of the Union speech. As you read the following, notice how he

  • Sets up his theme with a story
  • Reviews the accomplishments of the troops working together
  • Describes the values they demonstrated
  • Contrasts that single-minded success to the splintering in current politics
  • Then uses the success of military unity as his primary metaphor for what such unity could mean to America’s future

Result? An emotionally engaged audience. His theme set. His audience ready to hear the details.

“Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought - and several thousand gave their lives.  We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.(Emphasis mine) Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded…..”

Theme Repeated in Summary
Like all good communicators whether in politics, business or sales, President Obama returned to his unity metaphor in his closing remarks.

“Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who've been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind…..”

“So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we're joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.”

Final Word
Was the speech too long? Maybe. Did people agree with everything he said? Certainly not. But did he engage, did he creatively and emotionally set up his argument? Did he get people to listen? Definitely. And he did it with metaphor. When the stakes are high, metaphor is your best strategy.

Make what you say pay — with metaphors.

Anne Miller




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"The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2009. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2011, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling," amiller@annemiller.com

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